‘It’s going to be really difficult isn’t it? I’m going to get really upset”.
‘Mmm,’ I replied.
I felt a sharp kick to my ankle and glanced up to see Mrs Canavan staring angrily at me.
“Are you listening to what I’m saying?” she said.
‘Erm, not totally,’ I confessed, lowering The Guardian. ‘I’m reading an interesting article about a lost tribe in Peru who survive by eating only leaves, nettles, and lightly buttered jacket potatoes.’
She snatched the paper from my hand and threw it on the couch in melodramatic fashion.
“I was saying,” she said, “how difficult it’s going to be tomorrow to leave Mary at nursery.”
‘Why, is the parking bad?’ I asked, genuinely confused.
She glared at me in a way I’d not seen since 2011 when I bought her an ironing board for Christmas (a Denko AK47, top of the range with steel mesh vented top for optimal steam flow and 100 per cent cotton cover with resilient foam underlay’).
“I’m worried what to do if she won’t stop crying. How am I going to walk off and leave her?” whimpered Mrs Canavan.
I told her not to be so ridiculous and that putting a youngster in nursery was a perfectly normal thing to do, a basic part of a child’s development and growing up.
“Well in that case, you can do it,” she said.
‘Fine, I will,’ I said and she left the room while I picked up the paper and began reading about a former female high jumper who’s opened a successful vegan restaurant in East Bridlington.
So that is how, on Monday, I ended up being in charge of taking Mary - my 13-month old child - to her first day at nursery.
The night before, Mrs Canavan carefully laid out the outfit I was to dress our daughter in and packed a small bag containing a spare set of clothes and Mary’s favourite cuddly toy - a deformed-looking duck that makes a sound vaguely resembling quacking, but could just as easily be mooing, when its stomach is pressed.
“All you have to do is dress her and take her and the bag to nursery,” Mrs Canavan said. “Will you remember all that?”
‘Of course I will,’ I replied. ‘Why do you insist on talking to me like I’m a useless imbecile?’
My wife switched off her bedside light muttering something that sounded suspiciously like ‘because you are one’ and we went to sleep.
The next morning Mrs Canavan rose early, gave me my instructions once again, tearfully waved goodbye to Mary and departed for work - her first day back in a year.
Now I’ll admit I wasn’t in a great mood. Being in charge of getting our daughter to nursery meant I’d had to get up at 7.30am - a full hour earlier than usual - and suddenly there seemed a lot to do.
I was in the middle of changing Mary into the quite horrific dungarees/jumper combination that Mrs C had laid out when my mobile phone sounded.
It was my beloved partner to inform me not to try collecting Mary later because I wasn’t on the safe list.
I asked what this meant.
“There is a list of certified people who can pick her up. I’m on it, so are our mums, oh and so is Bill the postman, but I’ve not got round to sticking you on it yet,” she informed me.
It means that at the moment I can drop my child off at nursery but can’t pick her up. That seems a bit odd. But then again I suppose it’s comforting to know the correct security measures are in place.
To get on the safe list, you need to supply a photo of yourself so staff know who you are when you arrive. However - because I’m a worrier - this made me fret that someone might put on a wig and impersonate me, then kidnap my child. It’s unlikely granted – and they’d need plastic surgery to fully recreate my sticky-out ears - but it’s possible surely.
“Now do you know what you have to do this morning?” Mrs Canavan said down the phone, breaking my thoughts about child abduction. “Good, right I’ll leave you to it. But you might find this hard you know, you might get upset if she starts to cry when you leave her.’
I laughed hollowly and shock my head at the ludicrous nature of this statement.
Finally, with Mary dressed, I headed to the nursery where the lovely staff greeted me like an old friend. I gave my daughter a kiss, handed her over, and turned to go.
Mary’s little face crumpled and she began screaming in distress.
I stopped in my tracks and went back to her. She reached out for me with both arms. I took her and cuddled her and she began smiling. Then I handed her back, and she immediately dissolved into tears again. I stumbled from the nursery to my car, sobbing uncontrollably, and rang Mrs Canavan.
‘I can’t ever do that again,’ I wailed, banging the steering wheel in distress and getting an odd stare from a burly-looking bloke with a Union Jack tattoo on his forearm walking by. ‘She just wouldn’t stop crying.’
I have since made Mrs Canavan drop Mary off and am currently getting counselling for separation anxiety.
It’s not easy being a hands-on dad.